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School permission requests down slightly

November 17, 2003|by PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

Fewer parents asked this year for permission to send their children to a school outside their district, but slightly more were denied their request for special permission, a decision based on school capacity and parent needs.

For this academic year, 836 Washington County Public Schools students were granted special permission, while 354 students were denied. The prior year, 1,403 students were granted permission, while 288 students were denied, said Cheryl Strong, the school system's director of student services.

According to the School Board policy, every student must go to the school within his or her district, but permission to go to a school outside the district may be granted by the principal on a one-year basis.

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Last year, parents were told by July 15 if their children could go to another school, but this year, Strong said, parents will be told before the end of the school year.

"They need to know before summer," she said.

She said the desire to stay with day care and friends usually causes parents to ask for special permission. By letting parents know before summer whether their children can go to another school, Strong said parents should be able to make changes or arrangements with their day-care providers before the next academic year.

The school system consistently has tried to maintain class size at about 20 students to one teacher, which affects the number of students a particular school can hold, she said. Smaller schools can take in fewer students. She said Cascade Elementary School, for example, is not full with students, but sometimes certain grades are more crowded than others.

She said parents may be told that one of their children can go to a school, but another child cannot, based on the enrollments at each grade level.

This year, 94 students were granted special permission to attend Williamsport Elementary School, the elementary school with the highest number of special admissions, while 29 students were denied special permission to attend Eastern Elementary School, the elementary school with the highest number of denials.

North Hagerstown High School, at 60 students, and Northern Middle School, at 30 students, had the highest numbers of special admissions at the secondary level this year, but also had the highest number of denials at the secondary level.

She said the situation is different at magnet schools Emma K. Doub School for Integrated Arts and Technology and Fountaindale School for Arts and Academic Excellence, which pull students from outside their districts.

She said both Fountaindale and Funkstown Elementary School, which now is Funkstown School for Early Childhood Education, were underused before they became part of the school system's magnet program.

"(Special permission) is a privilege, not an entitlement," Strong said.

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